Sunday, April 08, 2012

The Real Bashar Al-Assad: War Criminal

The title is a different take on Camille Otrakji's recent post on Creative Syria titled: "The Real Bashar Al-Assad". That post seeks to whitewash Bashar's reputation with tired old irrelevant arguments.  Studiously absent from the arguments is the plain fact that Bashar Al-Assad, the authoritarian president of Syria and its commander in chief, has unleashed the full fire power of  the regular Syrian army as well as that of a non-uniformed militia loyal to him, indiscriminately against his own citizens. That very fact trumps any other argument about his actual versus perceived popularity, the actual size of any particular anti- or pro-Assad militia, any laudatory statements made about him by anyone prior to March 2011 and certainly not the fig leaf of his being the keeper of the flame of resistance against Israeli hegemony . In fact, based on the scale and the mutlifaceted abuse of his own citizens, Bashar Al Assad has become, by any of several definitions, a war criminal.

What constitutes a war crime has evolved over the last century. Encyclopedia Britannica's definition of war crime, in international law, it that of serious violation of the laws or customs of war as defined by international customary law and international treaties.  War crimes were initially meant to codify the rules of conduct between two uniformed armies from two countries in a armed conflict  The definition has expanded to include the protection of victims of non-international armed conflicts.  These rules were codified in Geneva in 1977 in the protocol II addition to the 1949 Geneva Convention.  The rules of protocol II, which Syria signed and ratified, are specifically applicable to the events of the Syrian uprising starting in March 2011.  As you read the list the principal articles of protocol II, it becomes evident that the Syrian regime of Bashar Al-Assad has violated if not all, certainly the majority of the relevant articles of the protocol. This ranges from the lack of due process, forced confessions and torture of prisoners; brutal violence against civilians including children, collective punishment, failure to provide medical care for the wounded; attacks on places of worship and attacks on medical personnel.

The documentary evidence to support the contention that war crimes were committed in Syria re overwhelming.  There are tens of thousands of amateur videos showing the misconduct of the government towards its own citizens.  The Local Coordinating Committees (LCC) has compiled numbers and eyewitness reports. Syria Tracker, a crowd sourced effort by US-based Syrians, re-purposed a health care software accurately track the number of victims of the Syrian uprising. The numbers they generate are said to be the most valid estimates of the number of casualties.  As of March 25, they count 11,813 deaths across Syria. In addition, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the UN Human Rights commission have all come out with reports outlining the human rights abuses in Syria. Most damning has been the recent report by Amnesty International entitled: 'I want to die':Syria's torture survivors speak out. The report is based on extensive interviews of  dozens of ex-detainees who fled to Jordan and who hail from across Syria. This report is not for the faint of heart; the brutality of the regime's henchmen is vividly outlined including a description of the various modalities of torture used in the Syrian regime's detention facilities.

Bashar Al-Assad may think he is winning as he uses the last three days before the agreed upon UN cease fire deadline to inflict maximum pain on his citizenry -127 died today Saturday, April 7th.  However, to all objective observers, he stands no chance of reestablishing his authority. So whether he is gone in six months or in a year, the world will be waiting with a massive trove of evidence against him that will surely land him a spot in that rogue gallery of convicted war criminals.

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